April 28, 2009

From the Front: 04/28/2009

News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Joshua Foust: More Progress in Alasay - The news from the valley continues to be encouraging: several more MEDCAPS providing health services to villagers up and down the valley, and many elders my colleagues have spoken to have expressed a keen interest in partnering with the district sub-governor to cement into place the tentative peace that’s been established. Anand Gopal has written a dispatch from Alasay, discussing some of the issues currently facing the French, American, and Afghan forces in the area: “Here in Alasay Valley, a restive district a two-hour trip north of Kabul, government-backed mediation efforts had floundered for months. The presence of insurgent group Hizb-i-Islami and the Taliban had grown tremendously here, in Kapisa Province, over the past couple of years. By last year, most of the Alasay Valley was under militant control. But in a series of offensives this year Western forces were able to dislodge the guerrillas and reassert control in parts of the valley.” (READ MORE)

Ghosts of Alexander: The Moderate Taliban in Action - Last summer The Independent newspaper ran an article titled “Afghan President pardons men convicted of bayonet gang rape.” So what actually happened? “The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has pardoned three men who had been found guilty of gang raping a woman in the northern province of Samangan. The woman, Sara, and her family found out about the pardon only when they saw the rapists back in their village. ‘Everyone was shocked,’ said Sara’s husband, Dilawar, who like many Afghans uses only one name. ‘These were men who had been sentenced and found guilty by the Supreme Court, walking around freely.’ [...] Sara’s case highlights concerns about the close relationship between the Afghan president and men accused of war crimes and human rights abuses. The men were freed discreetly but the rape itself was public and brutal. It took place in September 2005, in the run up to Afghanistan’s first democratic parliamentary elections.” (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: List of Gear for Afghanistan-Updated - Old Blue and I are combining our knowledge and experience to jointly publish blog posts under a shared Category called A.L.L. A.L.L. stands for Afghanistan Lessons Learned, and is intended to document our knowledge and experience in a fresh perspective for any and all service-members who may be part of the upcoming surge into Afghanistan this year. He and I and maybe others (who could one day also join this endeavor in the future) have walked the walk and walked the ground. We have learned the lessons the hard way, so there is no reason for others do to do the same. The wheel has been invented and there is no patent on it. This is the first “chapter” in this new joint blogging adventure. This list was originally published on this blog back on Jan. 26th, 2007. This is a list of good equipment to have. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: A.L.L. (Afghanistan Lessons Learned) Soldiers Should Know This When Deploying To Afghanistan Chapter 2: History Lesson - This post is in response to a direct request from SGT Danger, who has experienced a change of mission. First, read some basic history on Afghanistan. You don't need to know a ton, but being familiar with the history there is a good idea, and Afghans are very impressed with someone who has taken the time, and had the respect, to learn about their history. Afghanistan has a long history and is a witness to many empires, most of which have run over Afghanistan like steamrollers. Afghanistan has been like the cartoon character who is run over by a car, struggles to his feet and has scarcely dusted himself off when he is run over again. And again. And again, ad nauseum. Afghans, particularly the Pashtuns, have been called xenophobic, and while they have some xenophobic tendencies, it is this role as the speed bump of history that has ingrained this. (READ MORE)

Doc H's International Adventure: Good to Go Advanced Medic Training - I think today was the apex of our training here at Ft Riley with the exception of the live fire weapons training. Saturday we spent in classes and practical exercises on advanced medical care in the field. We reviewed all of the currently used and old or NATO medical dressings and interventional kits. The Army has some computerized manikins for training use. The highlight of the training was placing IV's in each other in dark.(not completely, but definitely not enough light to actually see a vein) The trauma validation came first thing this morning. We were individually brought in with a medical kit and presented with a casualty to treat in the dark with smoke and loudspeakers blaring combat audio. A headlamp was basically required to get anything done. It is a pretty adventurous list of things that had to be accomplished. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistan touts success of Dir operation - The Pakistani Taliban has called the 10-week-old truce with the military "worthless" after the government launched an operation in the northern district of Dir. The military launched the operation in Dir yesterday with the deployment of members of the Frontier Corps in a region that hosts the home town of radical cleric Sufi Mohammad. The Pakistani military is claiming success in the Dir operation, reporting that 46 Taliban fighters and two Taliban commanders, and only one soldier were killed during fighting over the past two days. The military said a Taliban leader named Maulana Shahid and four of his aides were among those killed during the fighting. The reports could not be confirmed. (READ MORE)

Sour Swinger: Children Of Iraq - My units AO (area of operation) is fairly small compared to most others however we still are in charge of a few towns. After visiting them all, I learned one thing. Poverty sucks! You know those adopt an african child commercials? That’s what I think of. Pictures and stories will give you an idea, but I truly didn’t realize until I saw first hand. The best town (relative of course) has spotty electricity and is able to send their kids to school until the age of 12. The worst town hasn’t sent their kids to school since 2006! All the towns have no sewage or access to clean water. There’s no trash collection so it literally builds up in and around the towns. One village literally has heaps of trash instead of dirt yards. In regards to health, there is no nearby hospital. Almost regularly, Iraqi’s will come up to us requesting medical assistant. Many times, our medic will get mad as their clinic will give something like itching cream for an infected wound. Our American homeless live in wealth compared to most of the people here. (READ MORE)

Sarge: Porta-Potttie (The Power of Privacy) - You might think that a porta-pottie in the desert would be about the least desirable place to be, with urine on the floor, profane graffiti on the walls, and the smell of hot human feces percollating right beneath you. However, honestly, some of the best times of my day are the moments in the porta-pottie. It is about the only time on deployment that you can find privacy. There is nobody in there with you, and nobody comes and disturbs you because when you lock the door it automatically puts a sign up that tells everyone that it's occupied. This provides time to unwind, relax, and just forget about the world outside. If the simple concept of privacy can make something as seemingly horrid as a porta-pottie seem like an oasis, imagine what it might do for other places. (READ MORE)



News from the Front:
Iraq:

Iraqi Medical Team Treats Small Village - DIYALA — More than 250 villagers here were treated or immunized at a temporary clinic in the once al Qaida-controlled village of Shuzayf, April 23. Men, women and children lined up outside a school in anticipation of receiving medical care that otherwise wouldn't be easy to obtain. As children frowned and cried from seeing the needle that would deliver vaccinations of all types, parents smiled knowing their kids were being treated with the best medical care in the area. (READ MORE)

IA Mechanics Learn Generator Basics - FOB DELTA — Mechanics from the Iraqi Army's (IA) 8th Motor Transport Regiment (MTR) attended a six-day generator maintenance course here recently to improve their self-sufficiency and sustainability. The IA is not staffed with generator mechanics, even though a lot of their units rely on generators to supply their electricity demands. The Soldiers who attended the course are vehicle mechanics who can directly apply the skills learned in the course to help maintain generators in the 8th IA Division. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Air Force Celebrates 78 Years - MUTHANA — Iraqi Air Force (IqAF) day began with the press gathering at the Triumphal Arches [Cross Swords] in downtown Baghdad, which set the tone for the celebration of the 78th anniversary of the IqAF. To showcase the IqAF’s capabilities, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense transported the media in three Mi-17 Transport Helicopters to Muthana Air Base, April 22. The media was very excited as they lifted off from downtown Baghdad and arrived at the air base where they quickly dispersed to cover the event for the Iraqi people and the surrounding countries. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army, U.S. Soldiers on Road to Brighter Future - FORWARD OPERATING BASE HUNTER — Outfitted with 1,000 sandbags, 4-by-4 pieces of lumber and a one-inch piece of plywood, a group of motivated Soldiers repaired a section of a main road here recently. The 41st Iraqi Army Brigade and members of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, 'Black Dragons' refurbished the road, referred to as Route Phoenix. Route Phoenix is a gateway for units to travel safely. It also has a drain pipe to irrigate crops in the area from a nearby river. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Special Forces Demonstrate Skills - BAGHDAD — Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) started the day with a bang, literally. The flash-bang grenade breached the front door of the house and immediately the members of the ISOF stormed in to rescue a simulated hostage and neutralize the enemy. Normally, the ISOF do this under cover of darkness with no one watching, but with major U.S. media present and many leaders of both Coalition and Iraqi forces looking on, the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Force performed flawlessly while demonstrating their skills. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
Unit Delivers Mail, Supplies Across Afghanistan - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, April 27, 2009 – Using a fleet of specialized aircraft, members of the 53rd Movement Control Battalion ensure that mail, equipment, passengers and supplies make it to their destinations across Afghanistan. The 53rd MCB specializes in scheduling, coordinating and executing flights and can move their numerous airplanes on short notice to most forward and contingency operating bases in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Joint Forces in Afghanistan Kill Five Militants, Detain 16 - WASHINGTON, April 27, 2009 – Afghan and coalition forces killed five militants and detained 16 suspects – including a Taliban commander -- during recent operations in Afghanistan. In Kandahar province’s Zharmi district, Afghan and coalition forces conducted a complex operation after receiving a tip on the location of Taliban operatives. The suspects were connected to bomb-making and other questionable activities, including operating a checkpoint in the district to collect money from local residents. (READ MORE)

Pak Taliban threatens Karachi's co-education institutions - Karachi, Apr 28 : The Taliban has reportedly warned co-education institutions in Karachi to close down or face consequences, spreading panic among colleges and schools in the city. Various educational institutions, including schools, colleges and universities have received threatening letters and phone calls from the Taliban. (READ MORE)

US says Pak Taliban picked up arms after Swat peace deal - Washington, Apr 28 : US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen is frustrated particularly by the Pakistani political leadership's inability to confront the extremist threat, and remains "very alarmed by the growing Taliban threat in the country," his spokesman has said. Mullen has made two visits to Pakistan in less than three weeks and is "deeply alarmed by what he has found," his spokesman, Captain John Kirby told CNN. (READ MORE)

Troops kill 20 Taliban as Pakistan talks suspended - PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) – Pakistani troops killed 20 rebels in a ground and air operation in the northwest, the military said, after a shaky peace deal was thrown into doubt when the Taliban suspended talks. The deaths take the toll since Sunday when the military launched its operation in Lower Dir district to around 50, officials said. (READ MORE)

UK sending more troops to Afghanistan - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has visited Afghanistan and Pakistan and outlined a new strategy for what he has called the "crucible of terrorism". After talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, Mr Brown announced a shift in the UK's strategy toward Afghanistan. The plan mirrors that outlined by US President Barack Obama and involves greater focus on the border with Pakistan which the British Prime Minister described as a "crucible for terrorism" responsible for fostering up to three-quarters of terror threats faced by the UK. (READ MORE)

Taliban Leader Captured, Rebels Killed In Afghanistan - (RTTNews) - A Taliban leader was captured Monday in an operation carried out by Afghan commandos backed by coalitions forces while U.S.-led and Afghan troops killed five suspected militants during "complex operations" targeting rebels in southern Afghanistan, reports say. The militant head was arrested in his compound without any resistance and the troops recovered rocket-propelled grenade launcher, machine gun with ammunition, AK-47, one mine and bomb-making materials. He was involved in organizing attacks and trafficking weapons as well as abductions in the restive Afghan western region. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Taleban break off talks as army assault gains momentum - The Taleban suspended talks with Pakistan’s Government yesterday, declaring negotiations to be worthless as clashes between militants and the army forced thousands of civilians to flee their homes. The military offensive in Lower Dir on the North-West Frontier came as Gordon Brown made a brief visit to Pakistan and Afghanistan, branding the volatile frontier between the two countries a “crucible of terrorism”. (READ MORE)

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